The Great Purge was a series of campaigns of political repression and persecution in the Soviet Union orchestrated by Joseph Stalin in 1936–1938. It involved a large-scale purge of the Communist Party and Government officials, repression of peasants, Red Army leadership, and the persecution of unaffiliated persons, characterised by widespread police surveillance, widespread suspicion of "saboteurs", imprisonment, and executions. In Russian historiography the period of the most intense purge, 1937–1938, is called Yezhovshchina (Russian: Ежовщина; literally, the Yezhov regime), after Nikolai Yezhov, the head of the NKVD during that period.

Literary comment[]

Most of Harry Turtledove's Soviet-related timelines place the point of divergence after the Great Purge has already been completed, and the period is often referenced in those.

Great Purge in "The Phantom Tolbukhin"[]

The Great Purge was indiscriminate, sweeping up Georgy Zhukov, Ivan Koniev, and several other military leaders in the years before World War II. It was not very surprising that the Red Army was ineffective in stopping the German invasion of the Soviet Union in May 1941.

Great Purge in The War That Came Early[]

The Great Purge was still fresh in the minds of both Germans and Russians when the Second World War broke out on the European continent in October, 1938. Many Russians were still nervous about speaking their minds around their comrades in case one of them turned out to be an NKVD informer.

After the Generals' Plot, so many German military officers were taken out of the front line and tried for treason that the soldiers of the army began to realize the similarities between their precarious situation and that of the Russians.